Wednesday, October 10, 2018

For Bob Dylan-Happy Birthday Mississippi John Hurt-Tribute Album Potpourri- A Tip Of The Hat To Greg Brown- Keeping The Folk Tradition Alive

Click On Title To Link To YouTube's Film Clip Of Greg Brown In Concert.

This Is Part Of A Four Artist Tribute Album Potpourri- A Tip Of The Hat To Hank Williams, Mississippi John Hurt, Bob Dylan and Greg Brown.


A musical performer knows that he or she has arrived when they have accumulated enough laurels and created enough songs to be worthy, at least in some record producer's eyes, of a tribute album. When they are also alive to accept the accolades as two out of the four of the artists under review are, which in these cases is only proper, that is all to the good. That said, not all tribute albums are created equally. Some are full of star-studded covers, others are filled with lesser lights who have been influenced by the artist that they are paying tribute to. As a general proposition though I find it a fairly rare occurrence, as I have noted in a review of the “Timeless” tribute album to Hank Williams, that the cover artist outdoes the work of the original recording artist. With that point in mind I will give my “skinny” on the cover artists here.

Keeping The Folk Tradition Alive

Going Driftless: An Artists’ Tribute To Greg Brown, Red House Records, various artists, 2002

The last time that the name Greg Brown, singer/songwriter and free-wheeling homespun philosopher appeared in this space was just recently as I found myself publicly ‘flirting’, via cyberspace of course, with his wife the also accomplished singer/songwriter Iris Dement, my “Arkie Angel” (See my review of her “Infamous Angel” CD). It is all Greg’s fault, in any case. I was ‘introduced’ to Iris on this tribute album “Driftless” where she does a cover of “The Train Carrying Jimmie Rodgers Home” (complete with yodel at the end).

Greg Brown is a particular kind of folk singer who before I listened to his “Greg Brown Live” album I had not really paid attention to since the days of my early youth when I listened intently to Woody Guthrie whose songs were seemingly forged from the very heart of Americana. As a child of the urban folk revival of the 1960’s I got caught up more in the overt political message songs provided by the likes of Bob Dylan or Phil Ochs. Greg has come out of the heartland of America, like Woody, in a fury to write and sing his tales of love, remembrance, tragedy, desperation and, on occasion, just pure whimsy.

So what is good here beside the above-mentioned “Jimmy Rodgers”. This, by the way, is an all women’s tribute album; make of that what you will. Lucinda Williams (as almost always, she does great cover work) on “Lately”. Eliza Gulkinson on “Sleeper”. Listen particularly to Ani DeFranco on the extremely thoughtful “The Poet’s Game” (especially the lines about the strip malls taking over the countryside, a lost poet friendship and that mysterious reference to a New Hampshire night of passion). For the rest Shawn Colvin’s “Say A Little Prayer” sticks out. Listen on.

"Billy From The Hills"

Lyrics to Billy From The Hills :

No one now knows too much about these woods,
They got lost, they wouldn't know where to go.
Tribe's been gone a long time, small farmers got blowed out,
Maybe there ain't even that much left to know.
You can strip the trees, foul the streams, try to hide in a progressive dream.
Ease into the comfort that kills.
Before I do that, I'll grab my pack,
And disappear with Billy from the hills.

Blood flows back and back and back and back,
Like a river from a secret source.
I feel it wild in me; I pitched my camp
At the fork where knowledge meets remorse.
Women sing in me that song from the ancient fire,
I just open my mouth and what comes out gives me chills.
I got my song from a secret place,
I got my face from Billy from the hills.

A 40-inch barrel on that shotgun,
Steel traps in a cane pack on his back.
Eighteen years old, surrounded by the Ozarks,
Ain't one little bit of that boy that's slack.
If you're looking for a helping hand,
He'll give you one, you know he will.
If you're looking for trouble, huh-uh, turn around,
You don't want to mess with Billy from the hills.

Some folks dance cool, all angles and swaying hips,
Sensual as all get out and in.
Me, I'm a hick, and I dance like one,
I just kind of jump around and grin.
I know a guy, he doesn't dance too much,
But when he does, he gives everyone a thrill
You might run away or suck it up and stay,
When he dances, Billy from the hills.

There's a lantern lit on a Missouri night,
A woman writing poems by a stove.
She knows the fox's whereabouts by knoll, by gulch, by yelp,
As he runs at night through her mother love.
Her memory to me is like watercress from a spring-fed stream,
Fresh and aching as a mockingbird's trill.
She lives in me; I try to look until
I can see for her and her boy, Billy from the hills.

It's a drifting time, people are fascinated by screens,
No idea what's on the other side.
We stare at doom like an uptight groom,
And live our lives like a drunken bride.
Tonight I feel something on the wind,
Deep inside where we have to die or kill.
Something I know I didn't know I knew,
I learned from Billy from the hills

Lyrics to Your Town Now :

I used to go out quite a lot,
Chase to chase and shot to shot.
I'm all done with that somehow,
And it's your town now.

These days the mighty eagle sings,
Of money and material things,
And the almighty Dow,
And it's your town now,
Your town now,

From the mountains to the plains
All the towns are wrapped in chains,
And the little that the law allows,
And it's your town now,
It's your town now,

Where are the young bands gonna play?
Where're the old beatniks gonna stay,
And not before some corporation bow?
And it's your town now,
It's your town now,

So be careful everyone,
Cops can get careless with their guns.
And then they slip off somehow,
And it's your town now,
It's your town now,

You young ones it's up to you
To fight the fight and I hope you do,
Oh I see in your eyes that you know how
And it's your town now
Your town now.

Don't let 'em take the whole damn deal,
Don't give up on what you really feel.
Ah, the small and local must survive somehow,
If it's gonna be your town now.
Is it gonna be your town now?
Is it gonna be your town now?
Is it gonna be?

Lyrics to Mose Allison Played Here :

The joint is a dump
The owner is broke
At least that's what he said
The p.a.'s a joke
The waitpersons are snotty, the bartender's rude
They want to make sure I know they forgot me
But not their attitude
The bellyachers played last night
Everybody got sick
Don't even try dancing, your feet would just stick
The band signs their poster
"fuck u miguel"
And that's all the good part
The bad part's the smell
And what was your name again, oh - yeah - right - brown
Your crowd just drinks water
Surprised you're still around

And nobody's coming, because hey man you see
Advertising's expensive, hey, what guarantee

But as I set up I am proud to be here
Because once last November, Mose Allison played here

Lyrics to The Poet Game :

Down by the river junior year
Walking with my girl,
And we came upon a place
There in the tall grass where a couple
Had been making love
And left the mark of their embrace.
I said to her, "Looks like they had some fun."
She said to me, "Let's do the same."
And still I taste her kisses
And her freckles in the sun
When I play the poet game.

A young man down in hill country
In the year of '22
Went to see his future bride.
She lived in a rough old shack
That poverty blew through.
She invited him inside.
She'd been cooking, ashamed and feeling sad,
She could only offer him bread and her name -
Grandpa said that it was the best gift
A fella ever had
And he taught me the poet game.

I had a friend who drank too much
And played too much guitar -
And we sure got along.
Reel-to-reels rolled across
The country near and far
With letters poems and songs..
But these days he don't talk to me
And he won't tell me why.
I miss him every time i say his name.
I don't know what he's doing
Or why our friendship died
While we played the poet game.

The fall rain was pounding down
On an old New Hampshire mill
And the river wild and high.
I was talking to her while leaves blew down
Like a sudden chill -
There was wildness in her eyes.
We made love like we'd been waiting
All of our lives for this -
Strangers know no shame -
But she had to leave at dawn
And with a sticky farewell kiss
Left me to play the poet game.

I watched my country turn into
A coast-to-coast strip mall
And I cried out in a song:
If we could do all that in thirty years,
Then please tell me you all -
Why does good change take so long?
Why does the color of your skin
Or who you choose to love
Still lead to such anger and pain?
And why do I think it's any help
For me to still dream of
Playing the poet game?

Sirens wail above the fields -
Another soul gone down -
Another Sun about to rise.
I've lost track of my mistakes,
Like birds they fly around
And darken half of my skies.
To all of those I've hurt -
I pray you'll forgive me.
I to you will freely do the same.
So many things I didn't see,
With my eyes turned inside,
Playing the poet game.

I walk out at night to take a leak
Underneath the stars -
Oh yeah that's the life for me.
There's Orion and the Pleiades
And I guess that must be Mars -
All as clear as we long to be.
I've sung what I was given -
Some was bad and some was good.
I never did know from where it came
And if I had it all to do again
I am not sure I would
Play the poet game

Lyrics to Cheapest Kind :

We travelled Kansas and Missouri spreading the good news
A preachers family in our pressed clothes and worn out polished shoes
Momma fixed us soup beans and served them up by candlelight
She tucked us in at night
Oh she worried through many a sleepless night
Dad and me would stop by the store when the day was done
Standin at the counter he said "I forgot to get the peaches, son."
"What kind should I get?" I said to him there where he stood in line
And he answered just like I knew he would "Go and get the cheapest kind"

But the love, the love, the love
It was not the cheapest kind
It was rich as, rich as, rich as ,rich as, rich as
Any you could ever find

I see the ghost of my grandfather from time to time
In some big city amongst the people all dressed so fine
He usually has a paper bag clutched real tight
His work clothes are dirty
He don't look at nobody in the eye
Oh he was little, he was wirey, and he was lots of fun
He was rocky as Ozark dirt that he come from
And they was raisin seven children on a little farm
In not the best of times
The few things that they got from the store
Was always just the cheapest kind


Fancy houses with wealthy poeple I don't understand
I always wish I could live holdin on to my grandpa's hand
So he could lead me down that gravel road somewhere
To that little house where there's just enough supper
For whosever there
My people's hands and faces they are so dear to me
All I have to do is close my eyes and I see `em all so near to me
I have to cry I have to laugh
When I think of all the things that have drawn those lines
So many years of makin do with the cheapest kind

[Chorus 2x]

Lyrics to Canned Goods :

Let those December winds bellow 'n' blow
I'm as warm as a July tomato.

Peaches on the shelf
Potatoes in the bin
Supper's ready, everybody come on in
Taste a little of the summer,
Taste a little of the summer,
You can taste a little of the summer
My grandma's put it all in jars.

Well, there's a root cellar, fruit cellar down below
Watch you head now, and down you go

And there's

Maybe you're weary an' you don't give a damn
I bet you never tasted her blackberry jam.


Ah, she's got magic in her - you know what I mean
She puts the sun and rain in with her green beans.


What with the snow and the economy and ev'ry'thing,
I think I'll jus' stay down here and eat until spring.


When I go to see my grandma I gain a lot of weight
With her dear hands she gives me plate after plate.
She cans the pickles, sweet & dill
She cans the songs of the whippoorwill
And the morning dew and the evening moon
'N' I really got to go see her pretty soon
'Cause these canned goods I buy at the store
Ain't got the summer in them anymore.

You bet, grandma, as sure as you're born
I'll take some more potatoes and a thunderstorm.

Peaches on the shelf
Potatoes in the bin
Supper's ready, everybody come on in, now
Taste a little of the summer,
Taste a little of the summer,
Taste a little of the summer,
My grandma put it all in jars.

Let those December winds bellow and blow,
I'm as warm as a July tomato.

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